Sunday, April 8, 2012

Not simple

I recently procured a WD Sentinel backup NAS that included Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials. You can read about the unit from Wayne Small’s blog, however I’m just going to give you my experiences with getting the things integrated into my network.

 

First of all I must say that the hardware is very impress. Small, neat, and quiet. So I plugged the unit into the network and went to admin page to do the setup. For some reason it hadn’t picked up an IP address from the DHCP server. So I powered the unit off and on, then gained access. Next I answered all the setup question and left the thing to complete initializations.

 

A few hours later the device LCD panel said it was still initializing so I logged into the console. I tried to create a new user but could allocate that user any shares. I check the status and the report that came back didn’t show anything.

 

I then decided to install all the required updates (300MB+) as the box effectively runs Windows Server 2008 R2 server. After a few reboots the box was all up to date. Now when I logged into the console I could see all the shares and create some users.

 

I installed the Storage Server Essentials client software on a Windows 7 workstation and that all went fine. I then tried to back up this very basic machine from the server using the console. After 3 attempts I gave up. Every time it got to 13% and then just stopped.

 

Abandoning the Windows 7 PC for a MAC I tried to install the client software but every time I was told the software as already installed and I would need to uninstall first. I couldn’t the see the MAC in the Storage Server Essentials console so I abandoned that for the time being and moved on a Windows XP machine.

 

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Even here the installation of the client software once again bombed out with an ‘unexpected error’. I looked at the troubleshooting link and that wasn’t much help. So I again abandoned that effort.

 

You know what worked really well? Simply browsing to the network location of the WD Sentinel and copying files up. Works a treat on Windows 7, MAC and Windows XP. Which kinda leads me to why I’m writing this post.

 

To all you Windows Server fanboi’s out there, let me tell you this is simply too hard for the average consumer (and small business). I’m sure that I’ll be able to work out all the problems but guess what? I really don’t want to. My expectation is, outta the box, turn on, install software, working and the experience so far has been far from this. My technology expectation these days is that being of average intelligence I should be able to set something like this up without assistance in short period of time.

 

Anything with Windows Server on it is complex and honestly has no place in the hands of a consumer (and I would contend a small business). An IT Professional, an enthusiast? Sure, as they have the time and enjoy the mucking about. Every day I’m becoming more and more aware of how far these technologies are becoming removed from the real world where people simply want things to work. That’s why Apple is doing so well. It is not what they do, it is what they don’t do. Windows Server is a great piece of software and has a huge amount of functionality BUT it is complex and when things go wrong they go wrong big time and the effort required to fix them is simply too much for a the average consumer. As a consumer I want simpler not more complex. Less choice is fine as long as it does its job.

 

If I had been an average consumer I would have returned this device in total frustration by now and that would have been a pity as it is a great device. I’m sure that I can get it all humming along eventually but really for the market it is aimed at I shouldn’t have to go through this now should I?